Georgia State (3-3) will travel to Orangeburg, SC on Tuesday to square off against South Carolina State. The Panthers have been hot lately, winning three in a row by an average margin of more than 16 points per game. Last Saturday, GSU received another impressive outing off the bench from senior Jihad Ali against the Liberty Flames. Ali scored 16 points in that game which followed up a 20 point performance earlier in the week against Samford.
Another key contributor during the streak has been Devonta White. The sophomore point guard has been the Panthers most consistent performer on the year, averaging 13 points and 3.8 assists per game. Meanwhile, Eric Buckner has now entered the Georgia State history books. With and incredible 7 blocks against the Flames, Buckner has now become one of the top 10 ranked shot blockers in school history. Buckner currently sits 6th in all of Division I basketball with 21 blocks on the year.
While getting contributions from key players on the offensive side of the ball has certainly helped, the Panthers have built this winning streak by their play defensively. In each contest over the three game stretch they have held their opponents to 50 points or less. Georgia State coach Ron Hunter commented on this feat during the week.
"I am excited how the team is playing defensively," said Hunter. "To hold three straight very good teams to 50 points or less at this level is very special. You have to have a pretty good defensive group to accomplish a feat like that."
South Carolina State (4-2) is coming into the game having just won an emotional double overtime thriller at Kennesaw State. The Bulldogs, who were selected to finish 10th in the MEAC this season, are led by Brandon Riley. The senior guard has averaged 20.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Another play to keep an eye on is Omar Sanders who ranks second on the team in points (17 per game) as well as first in rebounds (8.7 per game). Point Guard Khalif Toombs has shown the ability score this season, including a 21 point effort against Gardner-Webb. Toombs is averaging 12 points per game.
The Bulldogs have already faced top competition early on this season with their two losses coming to ACC member Virginia and #9 ranked Baylor. Neither game was competitive as they lost to Virginia and Baylor by 38 and 20 points, respectively, and failed to score over 50 points each time.
The Panthers will attempt to add a third loss to the Bulldog's total Tuesday night by looking to continue certain trends while abolishing others. Georgia State has been a second half team all season, consistently getting off to slow starts and then turning it on after the break. It cost the Panthers early on as they started the season with three straight losses after being unable to overcome halftime deficits.
On the season, Georgia State has outscored their opponents 233-198 in the second half, but have been outscored 190-175 in the first half. Tonight Georgia State needs to put everything together for the entire 40 minutes.
Other pleasant trends in victories for the Panthers thus far have been out-rebounding their opponents. On the year Georgia State has a 230-198 advantage on the boards. GSU also averages 8.7 steals per game, 3 more per game than their opponents. These are all good signs for this team as they continue on in Hunter’s first season, but they need to shoot the ball better. They will not survive in the Colonial Athletic Conference with the way they have been shooting. Steady improvement is needed and hopefully it will begin tonight on the way to a fourth win in a row for the Panthers.